How I use message templates to be more personal with customers

Cori Morris

Cori Morris,

Customer Support Manager at Front

3 November 20200 min read

Automated emails don’t have to be dehumanizing. They can actually create a much better, more personal customer experience. Learn how from a support pro.

We all can spot a “canned” email — usually as quickly as the salutation.

“Hey there” or “Cori, I’m reaching out because…”

There’s just something robotic about them. Normal people don’t write or talk that way. Usually it’s not a big deal, because the cold email and the marketing email are so normalized in our culture. We all get dozens of them a day. The companies we work for sometimes send dozens of them a day!

We all get it. We’re all trying to make a living.

And I totally understand that when you’re in a situation where you’re counting on a personal response (like customer support), it can be incredibly frustrating to open up an email and immediately recognize the telltale signs of a bad templatized email:

  • It doesn’t answer the question.

  • It doesn’t get you closer to a solution or advance the conversation.

  • It makes you feel like you’re just a number in a queue.

But those could be true of any email, not just templatized ones. And that’s why I don’t mind getting canned responses when I interact with support teams. In fact, instead of feeling devalued, I often feel just the opposite. That’s because a good canned response has a few advantages over a normal email:

  • It enables a much, much quicker response.

  • The information in a templatized email is almost guaranteed to be 100% accurate.

  • It lets me know that I’m not the only one experiencing this problem.

So done right, canned responses don’t feel impersonal at all. What feels impersonal to me is receiving an autoreply that says “We received your email and will get back to you soon. Your ticket number is X.”

Why support teams use templatized emails

My goal in support is to resolve the customer’s issue as quickly as possible. Message templates can save time, and leave little room for human error. Overall, the customer is going to have a better experience when I use a canned response.

I’ll give you an example. Towards the end of the day when I’m feeling exhausted, my email responses often become shorter, straight to the point, and provide less of an explanation of why something is happening. Instead of step-by-step instructions explaining how to fix something, I might just give an overview of what they need to do to fix the issue. If I can use a message template, I can give all customers the same high-quality experience with detailed instructions and links to Help Center articles that may guide them even further.

Customer support can sometimes get monotonous. And like any other job, how effective you are has everything to do with how you’re feeling mentally and physically. Customers get less care from a support rep who’s fatigued — and few things wear you out as much as repetitive, manual tasks.

How to use message templates to deliver a better customer experience

At Front, message templates are typically used to gather more information, to explain a (very common) error they’re seeing, or to give step-by-step instructions. These types of emails don’t require much personalization.

I gave a quick glance at my analytics, and for the week of 9/28 - 10/2, I used message templates 43 times out of 382 replies sent. And for the week of 9/14 - 9/18, I used 61 message templates out of 347 replies. That’s a pretty high percentage!

And it’s all about being able to deliver a better experience to more customers. I’ll give you a few examples.

At Front, a lot of the support inquiries we get require a Conversation ID to debug. (If you use Front, every conversation has a unique ID number.) I need to know that number before I can solve the problem, so we have a message template that quickly explains how to find the Conversation ID and why we need it. We send that message template MANY times per day and it helps us get to a resolution much faster.

Or if you use Front plus Twilio for SMS for example, we can debug an error in a few seconds with a message template and Twilio’s well-documented error codes.

Again, what people want when they engage with any support process is just to fix the problem as fast as possible. And automation and documentation are two ways to speed it up.

How to make your templatized emails more personal

But that’s not to say there’s no upside to personal communication. It’s part of why we believe ticket numbers are so bad for the customer experience. Automation doesn’t have to make your customer interactions impersonal. Quite the opposite, in fact!

You can use message template shortcuts for things like: “Please let me know if you have any additional questions. I’d be happy to help!” or “I hope that helps, but please let me know if you get stuck along the way. I’d be happy to assist!” You can set up hotkeys and shortcuts to add in that personal touch in a fraction of the time.

My message templates include phrases like “In your case” or “I took a look at your account.” I use emojis to show a friendly tone. 😉 And I always make it more personal by introducing myself to get the conversation going on a first name basis.

So don’t get too caught up in writing long personal letters. We don’t have to be Alexander Hamilton on every email! Use the technology at your fingertips to get the right solution to the customer faster and save yourself a ton of time and energy.

Written by Cori Morris

Originally Published: 3 November 2020

Stories that focus on building stronger customer relationships